A sociologist’s guide to trust and design

This post first appeared on Ethnography Matters

Trust. The word gets bandied about a lot when talking about the Web today. We want people to trust our systems. Companies are supposedly building “trusted computing” and “designing for trust”.

But, as sociologist Coye Cheshire, Professor at the School of Information at UC Berkeley will tell you, trust is a thing that happens between people not things. When we talk about trust in systems, we’re actually often talking about the related concepts of reliability or credibility.

Designing for trustworthiness

Take trustworthiness, for example. Trustworthiness is a characteristic that we infer based on other characteristics. It’s an assessment of a person’s future behaviour and it’s theoretically linked to concepts like perceived competence and motivations. When we think about whom to ask to watch our bags at the airport, for example, we look around and base our decision to trust someone on perceived competence (do they look like they could apprehend someone if someone tried to steal something?) and/or motivation (do they look like they need my bag or the things inside it?) Continue reading “A sociologist’s guide to trust and design”


Pages from 'Babylon', first issue of
Jason Bronkhorst in 'Babylon', first issue of Pangram

I love the first issue of Pangram called ‘Babylon‘ and I love the reader/publisher tool they’re using called ‘Issuu‘ (great page-turning action and pretty design) and I love this great pic of Jason called ‘what-a-yummy-icky-eye-you-have-there-in-your-hands’ (actually that isn’t the official title).

I like what Jason says below about getting stuff done:


There are many other gems in there (like Charl Malherbe‘s illos – and if you don’t know what illos are you are as dumb as I was about 2 weeks ago), so please take a look.

Jason and Charl (a.k.a. Infiltrate Media) are our favorite designers and have done some really beautiful work for us at iCommons and more recently, the rad illustrations on africancommons.org and, very impressively, these beautiful illustrations for a job I’m doing for Cyber Nurse.

The new Cyber Nurse flyer
The new Cyber Nurse flyer

What I don’t understand is why people don’t use illustrators more. In Japan, even the roadworks signs are illustrated with cute little men in uniforms, and everyone knows that being able to see cute little men in uniforms as you navigate your way through the busy streets makes ALL the difference!

I wish beautiful people like Jason and Charl and the cool folks at Pangram many, many riches (both material and immaterial). May the true ‘doers’ like them lead long and happy lives.